Environmental news feed

  • BR-319 highway hearings: An attack on Brazil’s interests and Amazonia’s future (commentary)
    on October 26, 2021

    - Brazil’s proposed reconstruction of the BR-319, a highway connecting Manaus (in central Amazonia) with the “arc of deforestation” in southern Amazonia, would bring deforesters to vast areas of what remains of the Amazon forest.- The forest areas in western Amazonia that would be opened by planned roads connecting to the BR-319 are vital to maintaining rainfall that supplies water to São Paulo and other major urban and agricultural areas outside the Amazon region.- Holding public hearings allows a “box to be checked” in the licensing process — a key step in obtaining official approval for the highway project. The hearing was held despite impacted Indigenous peoples not having been consulted, among other irregularities.- This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

  • NGOs say FSC label offers little protection for forests, Indigenous people
    on October 26, 2021

    - The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), a widely recognized ethical wood label, came under fire from NGOs this week for systematic flaws that allow deforestation and companies with questionable human rights records to benefit from certification.- Forest certification allows timber suppliers to attract discerning, high-paying customers, adopt an eco-friendly image, and meet requirements to access lucrative markets, like the EU.- Earlier this year, Greenpeace International published a report arguing that the FSC had “greenwashed” forest destruction, highlighting a trend of increasing deforestation and degradation despite the expansion of certification.- In the Congo Basin, which hosts the second-largest tract of rainforest after the Amazon, the area under FSC certification has, in fact, shrunk, and even in certified concessions, experts say, valuable intact forestland is under threat.

  • Hungry like the maned wolf pup: Clips give rare glimpse of elusive canine
    on October 26, 2021

    - New camera-trap clips show three maned wolf pups nursing and eating regurgitated food from their mother.- This is the first time this behavior has been observed and documented in wild maned wolves, experts say.- Wild maned wolves have recently recolonized Iberá National Park in Argentina, thanks to conservation efforts.

  • Indigenous Bolivians take the defense of their land into their own hands
    on October 26, 2021

    - Indigenous community members in Bolivia’s Lomerío region are volunteering to serve as socioenvironmental members in a bid to protect their territory.- They’re tasked with confirming satellite information identifying the location of potential fires, guarding against illegal mining and oil and gas extraction, and invasions of their land.- Around 50 monitors from four Indigenous territories are participating in the program, which they call “an incredible experience.”

  • Poisoned city: The story of Brazil’s forgotten environmental disaster
    on October 26, 2021

    - Hundreds of tons of carcinogenic agrochemicals, including DDT, were abandoned by the Brazilian government at a factory near an orphanage on the outskirts or Rio de Janeiro in the 1960s.- The factory had produced the pesticides as part of the government’s push to eradicate malaria-carrying mosquitoes.- After it shut down, the residents, unaware of the dangers of the chemicals, continued to use them, even applying the dust directly to their children’s hair to kill head lice.- More than half a century later, residents continue to suffer from the impact on their health, with 73% of those tested having high levels of contamination in their bodies.

  • Cats, charisma and climate change (commentary)
    on October 26, 2021

    - Delegates are meeting later this week at the United Nations Climate Change Conference to the debate the future of life on Earth as we know it, through the lens of how to take action on climate change.- Jonathan Ayers, Chair of the Board of Directors for wild cat conversation organization Panthera, makes a case for expanding efforts beyond combatting climate change: Addressing the global extinction crisis.- “For far too long, the crisis of biodiversity loss has been largely overlooked and deprioritized,” Ayers writes. “If we are to earnestly protect the planet, environmental dialogue and focus must shift to one in which the climate change and biodiversity conservation crises are regarded and funded as two sides of the same coin.” Ayers says that cats are a great place to start when it comes to conserving ecosystems and staving off extinction.- The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

  • Bolsonaro evades genocide blame amid Indigenous deaths by invaders, COVID-19
    on October 25, 2021

    - A Senate inquiry has opted not to call for genocide charges against President Jair Bolsonaro over his failure to sufficiently protect Brazil’s Indigenous population from the COVID-19 pandemic and the escalating illegal invasions of their reserves.- The final report nevertheless accuses Bolsonaro of crimes against humanity, saying he took advantage of the pandemic to harm traditional communities.- The Senate’s backtrack on the genocide call comes a week after two Indigenous children in the Yanomami reserve were killed in an accident involving illegal mining machinery.- The Yanomami, like other Indigenous reserves across Brazil, has faced a rising influx of invaders under Bolsonaro’s watch, which prosecutors attribute in part to the president’s anti-Indigenous rhetoric and support for illegal mining inside these territories.

  • $200 million in gold extracted in Amazon mine through illegal licenses
    on October 25, 2021

    - Gana Gold generated R$ 1.1 billion (US$ 200 million) in revenue using illegally-obtained environmental licenses in Brazil, equivalent to 3 tons of gold extracted.- By the company’s own reckoning, its operations should be producing annual revenues of around R$ 30 million ($6 million) if operating within licensing limits.- Located inside a conservation area, the company has extracted 32 times more gold than the projected estimate it made to the regulating agency.- An embargo has been placed on Gana Gold along with R$ 10 million (US$ 2 million) in fines following reports of illegal activity.

  • Study chronicles dying of a lake in PNG with advent of oil & gas activities
    on October 25, 2021

    - A new study finds warning signs of ecosystem collapse at Lake Kutubu in Papua New Guinea, a wetland of international significance.- The warning signs come in the form of major shifts in algal composition and dung-inhabiting fungi in the lake sediment in the 1980s and 1990s, indicating a drop in water quality and coinciding with oil and gas extraction in the area.- The lake used to have extensive beds of microalgae known as charophytes, which provided a breeding ground for endemic fish and crayfish, but these beds have since all but disappeared.- The researchers have called for action such as monitoring of the lake’s algae and fish populations to save the lake from ecological collapse.

  • Indigenous group faces eviction for ‘New Bali’ tourism project in Sumatra
    on October 25, 2021

    - The volcanic crater lake of Toba in Indonesia’s North Sumatra province is the site of what the government is touting as a new tourism hub.- The area has for generations been home to the Indigenous Pomparan Ompu Ondol Butarbutar, who now face eviction and have seen their farms razed to make way for the tourism resort.- The group is filing lawsuits to prevent its eviction from what it considers its ancestral land, but faces obstacles because its customary land rights aren’t recognized by the government.- The tourism project is one of several large ventures underway in this region; there are also power plant projects and a planned zinc mine near Lake Toba, some of them funded by Chinese investment.

  • On Nigeria-Cameroon border, joint patrols throw a lifeline to threatened apes
    on October 25, 2021

    - The rugged, isolated forests along the Nigeria-Cameroon border support a vast array of wildlife, including Cross River gorillas, Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzees, and forest elephants.- Historically, limited law enforcement in the border zone has left the ecosystem vulnerable to hunting and logging.- Since the early 1990s, though, NGOs have been working alongside both governments to enhance transboundary conservation efforts, including joint patrols by rangers from both countries.- This cross-border collaboration faces many obstacles today, including bureaucratic delays, treacherous terrain, armed poachers, and violent conflict in Cameroon, but participants remain optimistic about the potential for cooperation.

  • Critically endangered Sunda pangolin caught on camera trap | Candid Animal Cam
    on October 22, 2021

    - Every month, Mongabay brings you a new episode of Candid Animal Cam, our show featuring animals caught on camera traps around the world and hosted by Romi Castagnino, our writer and conservation scientist.

  • Plastics set to overtake coal plants on U.S. carbon emissions, new study shows
    on October 22, 2021

    - A new report released by Beyond Plastics suggests that plastics will release more greenhouse gas emissions than coal plants in the U.S. by 2030.- It argues that plastics production in the U.S. is currently responsible for 232 million metric tons of greenhouse gases every year, the equivalent of 116.5 gigawatts of coal plants. These numbers are likely to increase as production expands.- However, experts say that policymakers do not currently account for the impact plastics currently have on climate change and that the issue is flying under the radar.

  • Deforestation from cattle ranching also hurts rivers in Nicaragua, study says
    on October 22, 2021

    - A new study highlights the adverse effects that cattle ranching has had on rivers in Nicaragua’s Indio Maíz Biological Reserve, including decreased food sources for aquatic life and the reduction in the size of fish.- Deforestation has plagued the reserve for more than 30 years, resulting in the destruction of rainforest for cattle ranching, logging and other illegal activities.- Local Rama and Kriol communities are carrying out patrols and starting other efforts to protect their land.

  • Can we stop calling it ‘forest bathing’ now? Please, just get outside. (commentary)
    on October 22, 2021

    - The trendy phrase ‘forest bathing’ is based on the term shinrin-yoku, coined by the Japanese government in the 1980s as a public health initiative to get stressed-out businesspeople outside for a while, where blood pressures drop and stress hormones dissipate.- Studies were funded to prove this and then promote the idea that nature is good for us. Westerners have now jumped on the forest bathing bandwagon. So who cares if the idea is nothing new?- “Here’s the thing that bothers me. It’s become another commodified, self-help-style, precious “practice” of our secular capitalistic culture…I get asked things like, ‘What length of time in a natural setting is necessary to benefit fully? How often?'”- “The living, breathing world outside our doors is not a pill to take in certain dosages at certain times,” the writer argues. Rather, can we all just get outside in a forest, like we used to? The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

  • Mangrove conservation takes root with local communities on Kenya’s coast
    on October 22, 2021

    - Mangroves are keystones of coastal ecosystems, protecting shorelines from erosion, providing habitat for fish and other marine life, and storing large amounts of carbon.- These coastal forests are vital to local communities who have long relied on them for things like food, fuel, and construction materials.- Kenya has lost half of its mangrove forests in the past 50 years to a combination of factors, including overexploitation by locals with limited livelihood options.- A variety of conservation efforts in and around the southern city of Mombasa emphasize involving communities in reducing pressure on these coastal forests.

  • ‘Unequal exchange’ for Brazil community in shadow of Anglo American mine
    on October 22, 2021

    - Mining giant Anglo American makes huge profits from its Minas-Rio iron ore mine in Brazil, but leaves little behind for the local communities whose lives have been upended by its operations, a new report says.- Transparency of the mine’s financial flows falls short of international best practices, while its use of local water resources has reportedly led to shortages for the community, according to the report by the Brazilian Institute for Social and Economic Analysis (IBASE) and Publish What You Pay.- The 529-kilometer (328-mile) pipeline that Anglo American uses to transport its processed ore to port ruptured twice in 2018, spilling almost 1,000 metric tons of iron ore into surrounding rivers, contaminating farmland, pastures and water sources.- The local mayor where the mine is located says the municipality would go broke without the mine and that Anglo American has made an active effort to support sustainable development, although residents fearful of a breach of the mine’s tailings dam disagree.

  • COVID could wreak havoc on gorillas, but they social distance better than we do
    on October 22, 2021

    - A new study models the potential impacts of a COVID-19 outbreak in mountain gorillas using 50 years of population data collected in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park with epidemiological variables gathered on COVID-19 infection in humans.- In most of the scenarios modeled, gorilla populations were found to decline sharply within 50 years of an outbreak.- Questions remain as to whether the human epidemiological variables used in the analysis are a good fit for gorillas, which spend all of their time outdoors and interact with non-family members far less frequently than humans do.

  • Opposition to South Africa coal mine persists a year after murder of activist
    on October 22, 2021

    - One year after the murder of South African anti-coal mining activist Fikile Ntshangase, no arrests have been made.- A legal application to prevent the expansion of the Somkhele coal mine, which Ntshangase strongly opposed, has again been postponed by a South African court.- Tensions within the communities remain high as the mining company is pushing residents to sign relocation agreements before its existing reserves are depleted in 2022.

  • Paraguay failed to stop soy farms from poisoning Indigenous land, UN says
    on October 21, 2021

    - The U.N. Human Rights Committee says the Paraguayan government failed to stop the illegal use of pesticides being sprayed on the land of the Ava Guarani Indigenous community.- For more than a decade, the fumigation from neighboring soybean plantations killed the community’s plants and animals, while creating health issues for many residents.- As a result, younger generations of Ava Guarani were unable to learn the community’s cultural customs, and many moved away from the community.- Paraguay has the laws and institutions in place to regulate commercial agriculture but has demonstrated an unwillingness to apply them, according to the committee.